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Thursday 8 December 2016

Ebola is still emergency despite fall in cases

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the year-long Ebola outbreak in west Africa still qualifies as an international emergency even though the number of cases has plummeted.

Last August, the UN health agency declared the epidemic of the lethal virus to be a global emergency after the deaths of nearly 1,000 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

At the peak last year, hundreds of new cases were being reported every week.

In an update this week, WHO reported there were 30 confirmed cases last week in Guinea and Sierra Leone; the last case in Liberia died on March 27.

Bumpy

Dr Bruce Aylward, who is leading WHO's Ebola response, said the decline appeared to be real, rather than just "a pothole on the bumpy road to get to zero cases".

Dr Aylward said WHO's Ebola emergency committee believes the risk of the virus spreading globally appears to be dropping even though officials still don't know where the virus is spreading in most cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"We are still not controlling the epidemic," said Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders.

Other experts agreed it's too early for WHO to downgrade the status of the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak and warned the recent fall in cases may be deceptive.

hnews@herald.ie

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